Tuesday December 7, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Second Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 40:1-11) Gospel (St. Matthew 18:12-14)
When we hear in the first reading today from the prophet Isaiah that God is telling the prophet to speak words of comfort to the people, and to Jerusalem to proclaim that her service is at an end and her guilt is expiated, these are words that are very wonderful for us because it is followed up in the Gospel by Our Lord telling us that it is not the Will of His heavenly Father that a single one of these little ones should be lost. We, of course, are those little ones. We do not always like to think of ourselves as being very little, but that is the reality. God does not want us to be lost, and that is the Good News because we know that in the world in which we live things are not so good; yet, at the same time, the grace of God is there and the day will come when He will be able to say, “Your guilt is expiated.”
He is going to restore things, as He makes very clear: The mountains and the high places and the hills will be made low, and the rough places are going to be made into a plain. Things are going to be leveled out and restored. Things are going to be much easier, but in the meantime there is this time of purification. But if we know there is something much more wonderful that is coming, then it helps us to be able to make it through this time. If all we had to look forward to was more bad stuff, then we would either despair or we would be tempted to give into it because everybody else is doing it, after all, and so what is the problem? Trying to live according to the way of God, some people would think, is just too difficult when everybody else is trying to live in a way that is in opposition to God. But if we have this promise from Our Lord, just as in Jerusalem several thousand years ago, that the time of her expiation was complete, that things were going to be much better, so too do we have that promise today, that in the midst of this world gone astray, for those who are true to Our Lord, He is going to bring about comfort and peace. He is going to renew things and restore things. That is the hope we have to be able to hang onto. The day is going to come, but in the meantime it still has to get worse and we need to remain faithful in the midst of it.
In all of that, we have this promise from Our Lord that He, being the Good Shepherd, is going to seek out His lost sheep. We probably all know from our own lives that at one time or another we probably have been straying all over creation, and yet the Lord has brought us back. And that promise He has made – that it is not the Will of His heavenly Father that even one of these little ones should be lost – is a great comfort to us. He does not want us lost. As long as what we want to do is to try to do what is right, to seek His Will, then we can be guaranteed that the grace is going to be there from Him to help us remain faithful; and if we do stray, His grace is going to be there to bring us back.
Now we have to be willing to cooperate with that. I am sure the little sheep that wandered away was very pleased to see the shepherd. Unfortunately, there are lots of people who, when they stray, are not pleased to see Jesus because they like their sins too much and they do not want the Shepherd to bring them back. So what we all need to do is pray, first of all, to remain faithful; secondly, we need to pray for a true hatred for our sins so that if we do fall into sin we have the right disposition of heart to seek out the Shepherd, or at least to respond positively when the Shepherd arrives, because if we give ourselves totally over to sin and we like it, then we are not going to want to see the Shepherd and we are going to run from Him. But if we are praying for a hatred for our sins and if we are praying for fidelity to the Lord, then even if we do fall we are going to be able to get back up and we are going to seek out our Good Shepherd. We are going to listen to His voice and follow Him rather than follow the way of sinfulness.
So there is much in the midst of our own weakness and in the midst of all the filth and sin around us to be joyful about. We have the promise of the future comfort, we have the promise that we have the Good Shepherd, the best Shepherd, the One Who is going to seek out and find His lost sheep. And as long as His sheep desire it, they will be restored to the fold and they are going to be able once again to bring great joy to the heart of their Good Shepherd.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.